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ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering

Comparing Reactors
One of the most basic criteria of reactor selection is the reactor size
necessary to achieve a desired conversion in a reaction. We saw above that
these are:
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VPFR = − FA0 ∫
0

VCSTR = − FA0

Instead of comparing numerically the numbers for different cases, we can

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easily visualize the reactor volume in what is called “1/r-plots” (or also
‘Levenspiel-plots’)…
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1/r-Plots
XA
ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering

dX A
Let’s look at the PFR first: VPFR = − FA0 ∫0 ν A r ( X )

We need 1/r(X) -> let’s first look at r(X)!

r
1st order kinetics: r ∝ (1-X)
2nd order kinetics: r ∝ (1-X)2
zero order kinetics: r ≠ f(X)
negative 1st order: r ∝ (1-X)-1

1 or Xeq X
r-1

inverse (1/r) plot:

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2 1 or Xeq X
ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
1/r - Plots
n > 0 n < 0
r-1 operating point r-1
for CSTR

Xeq

XA X XA X
operating line
for PFR

•• Volume
VolumePFR
PFR ??
•• Volume
VolumePFR
PFR??
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•• CSTR
CSTRoperates
operatesat
atlowest
lowest

3
•• PFR
PFRoperates
operatesat
athighest
highest
ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
Example

The following (brilliantly interesting…) reaction is to be carried out

isothermally in a continuous flow reactor:
A→B

Compare the volumes of CSTR and PFR that are necessary to consume 90%
of A. The entering molar and volumetric flow rates are 5 mol/h and 10 L/h
of pure A, respectively. The reaction rate coefficient is k = 0.0001 s-1.
(What is hence the rate law?)

[Assume the volumetric flow rate is constant.]

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ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
Solution
20

18

16

14

12
FA0/(-rA)

10

0
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1
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Conversion (X)

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ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
Reactor Combinations
How about combinations of PFRs and CSTRs?
1/r
What kind of combinations of
reactors would be optimal for
a (somewhat bizarre…) kinetics
as shown at right?

Xtarget X
Even for ordinary kinetics, a sequence
rV-1
of a CSTR and a PFR might be used
(typically for cost reasons), where
the CSTR is then operated at low
conversion (i.e. first), followed by the
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PFR to achieve the final desired

conversion.
X1 X
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ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
Reactors in Series: CSTR Cascade
r-1
X1
X2

CSTR 1
CSTR 2 X3

CSTR 3
X1 X2 X3 X

with increasing number of CSTR’s , the integral over the “rV-1 vs X

curve” will be approximated with increasing accuracy

CSTR cascade approximates PFR behavior !

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Optimization problem: for n > 1, the volume of subsequent CSTRs must decrease
for minimal overall reactor volume... (how can we see that in the graph above?!)
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Let’s assume an irreversible 1st order reaction A -> B is conducted in a cascade of
ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering

equal-volume CSTRs. If k= 0.5 min-1, how long does it take to reach 90% conversion in
a cascade with 1, 2, 5 and 20 CSTRs? Compare these values to a PFR!

The total residence time for a cascade of n-CSTR is (read this in LDS, 109-111!):
111!)

n ⎪⎛ C A0 ⎞
1/ n
⎫⎪
τ n = n ⋅ τ = ⎨⎜ ⎟ − 1⎬
k ⎪⎝ C A ⎠ ⎪⎭

τ/min =

PFR: τPFR = - ∫1/r dCA = -1/k ln(CA/CA0) =

-> the residence time in the CSTR cascade decreases with increasing number of
reactors towards the “PFR-limit”.
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Why would anyone nevertheless

still use a CSTR over a PFR?
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ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering

(However,
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ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
“Repairing” low X: Recycle Reactors
The simplest way of improving a low conversion is through a recycle loop: a part of
the product stream is fed back to the reactor inlet (without prior separation!).
This is called a recycle reactor.
reactor

FA0 FA,in FA,out FAe recycle ratio R:

Frecycle
R =
FA,rec = R FAe Fexit

Let’s do the mass balance:

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ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
“Repairing” low X: Recycle Reactors
The simplest way of improving a low conversion is through a recycle loop: a part of
the product stream is fed back to the reactor inlet (without prior separation!).
This is called a recycle reactor.
reactor

FA0 FA,in FA,out FAe recycle ratio R:

Frecycle
R =
FA,rec = R FAe Fexit

overall conversion: XA = = 1−
FA0 FA0

− + − −
“per-pass” conversion: xA = = =
FA,in FA0 + R FAe FA0 + R FAe

1 −? XA
xA = =
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1+ ? 1 +?
Solve for XA.
test: R → 0:
Discuss the result!
11 R→ ∞:
ChE 400 - Reactive Process Engineering
Recycle Reactor: Design
Fout
From PFR design: dFA FA,in FA,out

FA0
V = − FAe

Fin
rA
FA,rec= R FAe
Assume 1st order rctn: rA = k cA = k FA / V

Further assume V= const. :

Vin = V0 (Ve = V0 !)

rA = k FA
rA in ‘design equation’:
( R +1) Fe
( R + 1) V0 dFA V0 ( R + 1) Fe V0 ⎧ F0 − Fe ⎫
V= − ∫ = −( R + 1) ln = ( R + 1) ln ⎨1 + ⎬
F0 + R Fe
k FA k F0 + R F e k ⎩ ( R + 1) Fe ⎭

R → 0: V=
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R→ ∞ : V=

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